AskDefine | Define cache

Dictionary Definition



1 a hidden storage space (for money or provisions or weapons)
2 a secret store of valuables or money [syn: hoard, stash]
3 (computer science) RAM memory that is set aside as a specialized buffer storage that is continually updated; used to optimize data transfers between system elements with different characteristics [syn: memory cache] v : save up as for future use [syn: hoard, stash, lay away, hive up, squirrel away]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A store of things that will be required in future, and can be retrieved rapidly. A cache may, or may not, be hidden.
    Members of the 29-man Discovery team laid down food caches to allow the polar team to travel light, hopping from food cache to food cache on their return journey.
  2. A fast temporary storage where most recent or most frequent values are stored to avoid having to reload from a slower storage medium.
  3. In evasion and recovery operations, source of subsistence and supplies, typically containing items such as food, water, medical items, and/or communications equipment, packaged to prevent damage from exposure and hidden in isolated locations by such methods as burial, concealment, and/or submersion, to support evaders in current or future operations.
  4. In the context of "geocaching": A container containing treasure in a global treasure-hunt game.


fast temporary storage


  • JP 1-02 Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms


  1. To place in a cache.



Noun 1

fr-noun f

Derived terms

Noun 2

fr-noun m


  1. First and third person singular of cacher
    je cache
    il/elle/on cache

Derived terms

See cacher

Extensive Definition

In computer science, a cache (, like "cash" ) is a collection of data duplicating original values stored elsewhere or computed earlier, where the original data is expensive to fetch (owing to longer access time) or to compute, compared to the cost of reading the cache. In other words, a cache is a temporary storage area where frequently accessed data can be stored for rapid access. Once the data is stored in the cache, future use can be made by accessing the cached copy rather than re-fetching or recomputing the original data, so that the average access time is shorter. Cache, therefore, helps expedite data access that the CPU would otherwise need to fetch from main memory.
Cache has proven to be extremely effective in many areas of computing because access patterns in typical computer applications have locality of reference. There are several kinds of locality, but this article primarily deals with data that are accessed close together in time (temporal locality). The data might or might not be located physically close to each other (spatial locality).


Use of the word “cache” in the computer context originated in 1967 during preparation of an article for publication in the IBM Systems Journal. The paper concerned an exciting memory improvement in Model 85, a latecomer in the IBM System/360 product line. The Journal editor, Lyle R. Johnson, pleaded for a more descriptive term than “high-speed buffer”; when none was forthcoming, he suggested “Cache.” (from the French “cacher”, meaning to hide). The paper was published in early 1968, the authors were honored by IBM, their work was widely welcomed and subsequently improved upon, and “Cache” soon became standard usage in computer literature.


A cache is a block of memory for temporary storage of data likely to be used again. The CPU and hard drive frequently use a cache, as do web browsers and web servers.
A cache is made up of a pool of entries. Each entry has a datum (a nugget of data) which is a copy of the datum in some backing store. Each entry also has a tag, which specifies the identity of the datum in the backing store of which the entry is a copy.
When the cache client (a CPU, web browser, operating system) wishes to access a datum presumably in the backing store, it first checks the cache. If an entry can be found with a tag matching that of the desired datum, the datum in the entry is used instead. This situation is known as a cache hit. So, for example, a web browser program might check its local cache on disk to see if it has a local copy of the contents of a web page at a particular URL. In this example, the URL is the tag, and the contents of the web page is the datum. The percentage of accesses that result in cache hits is known as the hit rate or hit ratio of the cache.
The alternative situation, when the cache is consulted and found not to contain a datum with the desired tag, is known as a cache miss. The previously uncached datum fetched from the backing store during miss handling is usually copied into the cache, ready for the next access.
During a cache miss, the CPU usually ejects some other entry in order to make room for the previously uncached datum. The heuristic used to select the entry to eject is known as the replacement policy. One popular replacement policy, least recently used (LRU), replaces the least recently used entry (see cache algorithms). More efficient caches compute use frequency against the size of the stored contents, as well as the latencies and throughputs for both the cache and the backing store. While this works well for larger amounts of data, long latencies, and slow throughputs, such as experienced with a hard drive and the Internet, it's not efficient to use this for cached main memory (RAM).
When a datum is written to the cache, it must at some point be written to the backing store as well. The timing of this write is controlled by what is known as the write policy.
In a write-through cache, every write to the cache causes a synchronous write to the backing store.
Alternatively, in a write-back (or write-behind) cache, writes are not immediately mirrored to the store. Instead, the cache tracks which of its locations have been written over (these locations are marked dirty). The data in these locations is written back to the backing store when those data are evicted from the cache. For this reason, a miss in a write-back cache (which requires a block to be replaced by another) will often require two memory accesses to service: one to retrieve the needed datum, and one to write replaced data from the cache to the store.
Data write-back may be triggered by other policies as well. The client may make many changes to a datum in the cache, and then explicitly notify the cache to write back the datum.
No-write allocation is a cache policy where only processor reads are cached, thus avoiding the need for write-back or write-through when the old value of the datum was absent from the cache prior to the write.
The data in the backing store may be changed by entities other than the cache, in which case the copy in the cache may become out-of-date or stale. Alternatively, when the client updates the data in the cache, copies of that data in other caches will become stale. Communication protocols between the cache managers which keep the data consistent are known as coherency protocols.


CPU caches

Small memories on or close to the CPU chip can be made faster than the much larger main memory. Most CPUs since the 1980s have used one or more caches, and modern general-purpose CPUs inside personal computers may have as many as half a dozen, each specialized to a different part of the problem of executing programs.

Disk cache

CPU caches are generally managed entirely by hardware; other caches are managed by a variety of software. The page cache in main memory, which is an example of disk cache, is usually managed by the operating system kernel.
While the hard drive's hardware disk buffer is sometimes misleadingly referred to as "disk cache", its main functions are write sequencing and read prefetching. Repeated cache hits are relatively rare, due to the small size of the buffer in comparison to HDD's capacity.
In turn, fast local hard disk can be used to cache information held on even slower data storage devices, such as remote servers (web cache) or local tape drives or optical jukeboxes. Such a scheme is the main concept of hierarchical storage management.

Other caches

The BIND DNS daemon caches a mapping of domain names to IP addresses, as does a resolver library.
Write-through operation is common when operating over unreliable networks (like an Ethernet LAN), because of the enormous complexity of the coherency protocol required between multiple write-back caches when communication is unreliable. For instance, web page caches and client-side network file system caches (like those in NFS or SMB) are typically read-only or write-through specifically to keep the network protocol simple and reliable.
A cache of recently visited web pages can be managed by your web browser. Some browsers are configured to use an external proxy web cache, a server program through which all web requests are routed so that it can cache frequently accessed pages for everyone in an organization. Many internet service providers use proxy caches to save bandwidth on frequently-accessed web pages.
Search engines also frequently make web pages they have indexed available from their cache. For example, Google provides a "Cached" link next to each search result. This is useful when web pages are temporarily inaccessible from a web server.
Another type of caching is storing computed results that will likely be needed again, or memoization. An example of this type of caching is ccache, a program that caches the output of the compilation to speed up the second-time compilation.
Database caching can substantially improve the throughput of database applications, for example in the processing of indexes, data dictionaries, and frequently used subsets of data. TimesTen provides a mid-tier caching facility that can be integrated into Oracle databases.

The difference between buffer and cache

The terms are not mutually exclusive and the functions are frequently combined; however, there is a difference in intent. A buffer is a temporary memory location, that is traditionally used because CPU instructions cannot directly address data stored in peripheral devices. Thus, addressable memory is used as intermediate stage. Additionally such buffer may be feasible when a large block of data is assembled or disassembled (as required by a storage device), or when data must be delivered in a different order than that in which it is produced. Also a whole buffer of data is usually transferred sequentially (for example to hard disk), so buffering itself sometimes increases transfer performance. These benefits are present even if the buffered data are written to the buffer once and read from the buffer once.
A cache also increases transfer performance. A part of the increase similarly comes from the possibility that multiple small transfers will combine into one large block. But the main performance gain occurs because there is a good chance that the same datum will be read from cache multiple times, or that written data will soon be read. Cache's sole purpose is to reduce accesses to the underlying slower storage. Cache is also usually an abstraction layer that is designed to be invisible from the perspective of neighboring layers.
cache in Tosk Albanian: Cache
cache in Arabic: تنظيم الذاكرة المخبئية
cache in Bosnian: Keš
cache in Bulgarian: Кеш-памет
cache in Catalan: Memòria cau
cache in Czech: Cache
cache in Danish: Cache
cache in German: Cache
cache in Modern Greek (1453-): Κρυφή μνήμη ΚΜΕ
cache in Spanish: Caché
cache in Esperanto: Kaŝmemoro
cache in French: Mémoire cache
cache in Galician: Cache
cache in Korean: 캐시
cache in Croatian: Priručna memorija
cache in Indonesian: Memori Cache
cache in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Cache
cache in Icelandic: Skyndiminni
cache in Italian: Cache
cache in Hebrew: זיכרון מטמון
cache in Lithuanian: Kešavimas
cache in Malay (macrolanguage): Cache
cache in Dutch: Cache
cache in Japanese: キャッシュ (コンピュータシステム)
cache in Polish: Cache
cache in Portuguese: Cache
cache in Russian: Кэш
cache in Simple English: Cache
cache in Slovak: Rýchla vyrovnávacia pamäť
cache in Sundanese: Sindangan
cache in Finnish: Välimuisti
cache in Swedish: Cache
cache in Thai: แคช
cache in Turkish: Önbellek
cache in Ukrainian: Кеш
cache in Urdu: ابطن
cache in Chinese: 高速缓存

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

asylum, backlog, bank, bolt-hole, bosom, bottle up, bundle away, bury, coffer, conceal, concealment, corner, cover, covert, coverture, cranny, cubby, cubbyhole, dark corner, den, deposit, dugout, embosom, file, file and forget, foxhole, funk hole, hide, hide away, hideaway, hideout, hidey hole, hiding, hiding place, hoard, hole, hutch, keep hidden, keep secret, lair, lay away, lay down, lay in, lay in store, lock up, lodge, nest egg, niche, nook, pack away, plant, put away, recess, refuge, reposit, repository, reserve, reserve fund, reserve supply, reserves, reservoir, resource, retreat, salt away, salt down, sanctuary, savings, seal up, secret place, secrete, sinking fund, something in reserve, squirrel away, stash, stockpile, store, store away, stow, stow away, stow down, supply, undercovert, unexpended balance, vault, warehouse
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